Online Safety: An Explainable Enigma

The Internet is a wonderful place to explore, like an ocean of information. But just like an ocean, even the internet as dark and scary parts along with beautiful (and knowledgeable) sights. With the increasing reliance over internet-based services owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest question that is often raised by teenagers and grown-ups alike, is are they safe on the internet? Well, this is a bit difficult to answer as this question is very subjective. For a person familiar with the World Wide Web, Social Media and IT will know how to keep everything secure, but a layman might not. Below, I list out some of the methods that can help a person make his experience on the internet secure and safe:

  • Two factor authentication (2FA): It is essential one must use 2FA for anything that they care about. This almost completely defeats password and account hijacking, but raises the risk of account lockout. SMS is the worst form (phishing, social engineering of phone companies if the account is valuable enough), but better than nothing. Google Authenticator for mobile devices is a very good service which helps in maintaining security for Google accounts. The Google Account is probably the most sensitive thing on the internet right now for the general public, because of the interlinking with Drive, Photos, Gmail, YouTube, and tons of other third-party services that one might have subscribed to. 2FA will prevent unauthorized access, and in turn, will keep your private data safe.
  • Ad Blocker: This isn't about privacy, it's about safety. We don't know if ads are the most common way of getting infected with malware, but it's definitely up there. Using a browser add-on such as uBlockOrigin or AdBlock Plus reduces the chance of stumbling upon a malware-ridden Ad.
  • Password Manager: Remembering passwords is awful. No one should do it. We're all just going to reuse passwords that are guess-able and similar to other passwords. Databases will still leak. Accounts will get hacked. Just use a password manager for everything, and have a really good non-saved password for the manager. What's a good non-saved password? A password which is completely random, such as ‘x86fnfdbhf7_’. I personally use Bitwarden, but there are a lot of good alternatives out there, which even have an inbuilt password generator which generate random passwords which are essentially uncrackable. (See: Lastpass)
  • Browser Privacy: This is a well-debated issue in the world of tech and IT as to which browser should one use. I personally prefer Firefox (because it’s open source), but a very good alternative to it is Google Chrome, which most of us use. But wait, isn’t Google tracking most of your data? Right. This can be disabled in Chrome, but if you want a browser which feels like Chrome and doesn’t have Google’s bloatware pre-loaded, you can use Chromium Browser. It’s open source and free to use. Moreover, Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge are based on Chromium.
  • Verified Downloading Sources: It’s always a bliss to get everything on the internet. But you never know if the file that you’re happily downloading (or pirating) from a website does not contain a malware or a keylogger. Always use Windows Defender and avoid downloading files from unverified sources. Even a Google search can save you from a lifetime of misery.
The above listed measures are some of which I take when browsing the internet. It’s always advisable to be on a secure network, never share passwords, and heck, don’t even add unknown people on social media, people can misuse pictures that can lead to cyberbullying. Last but not the least, always remember that there is no rocket science to be safe online, all the information that you need is just a Google Search (DuckDuckGo, if you don’t want your searches to be tracked) away.